What is Cognitive Computing: Definition, Features, Application, Challenges and Opportunities

Nitika Sharma 30 Jan, 2024
6 min read


In 2011, a special robot called Baxter joined factory teams. It stood six feet tall, weighing 300 pounds, with two handy arms and expressive digital eyes. What made Baxter unique was that it could work alongside humans, thanks to cognitive computing. This AI approach copied how humans think and learn. Humans taught Baxter how to do tasks better, like mentors guiding a pupil. Sadly, Baxter’s maker, Rethink Robotics, faced challenges. Not many people bought Baxter, and in 2018, the company went bankrupt. A German automation company called Hahn Group took over and started working on Baxter’s successor, named Sawyer.

Even though Baxter didn’t stick around, it marked the start of a new era in automation. Machines could safely work with humans, thanks to cognitive computing. By mimicking human thinking, cognitive computing aims to create a closer bond between people and machines, making them work better together. JT Kostman, an AI expert, believes this is just the beginning. In this article, we will be exploring different aspects of Cognitive Computing in the recent world. 

What is Cognitive Computing?

Cognitive computing is artificial intelligence (AI) that focuses on creating computer systems that mimic human thought processes and problem-solving abilities. It aims to enable machines to understand, learn, and interact with humans more naturally and intuitively. Unlike traditional programming, cognitive computing systems can process vast amounts of data, recognize patterns, and make context-based decisions.

Features of Cognitive Systems

Cognitive systems are packed with cool features that make them super smart. Here are some key features:

  • Learning Abilities: They can learn from tons of information and get smarter over time, just like how we learn from our experiences.
  • Natural Language Understanding: They can understand and talk with humans in our language, making communication easy.
  • Problem Solving: Cognitive systems are great at solving complex problems by analyzing data and coming up with solutions.
  • Decision-Making: They can make decisions based on facts and patterns, helping us make better choices.
  • Emotional Understanding: Some can even understand our emotions, like when we’re happy, sad, or confused.
  • Adaptability: They can adapt to new situations and learn from them, which is handy in a constantly changing world.
  • Data Analysis: They’re pros at analyzing large amounts of data quickly and accurately.
  • Human Collaboration: Cognitive systems work alongside us, helping us in our daily tasks and decision-making
Cognitive Computing Benefits
Source: PAT Research

Application of Cognitive Computing

Here are some real world applications of Cognitive Computing in the workplaces: 

Healthcare Revolution

Cognitive computing is making waves in healthcare. Hospital care management systems now use data from social media to track disease outbreaks. During events like the dengue fever outbreak, hospitals monitor Twitter to identify symptoms. Geolocation pinpoints local tweets, while natural-language processing determines relevant posts. Health insurance providers benefit from real-time analyses, enabling them to predict outbreaks and take proactive measures like vaccination campaigns.

Banking Enhanced

Cognitive business process management is transforming the banking sector. It optimizes customer satisfaction by analyzing loan servicing interactions. Cognitive analysis evaluates employee performance, ensuring they ask the right questions and provide efficient service. This approach leads to improved customer experiences and better bank-client relationships.

Customer Service Excellence

Cognitive technologies elevate customer service. They analyze customer communication, such as letters and emails. For customers expressing strong negative sentiments, sentiment analysis guides them to the best-suited employees, enhancing overall customer satisfaction.

Recruitment Revolution

Cognitive computing is revolutionizing recruitment. Traditional hiring practices involve sifting through countless applications, a time-consuming process. Cognitive systems transcend basic criteria like degrees and work experience. They employ modern data collection techniques to identify top candidates, making recruitment more efficient and precise.

Challenges and Opportunities of Cognitive Computing

Cognitive computing is a powerful technology that can enhance human capabilities and improve our lives. However, it also faces some challenges and opportunities that need to be addressed. Some of the challenges include:

  • Data privacy and security: Cognitive computing systems require access to large amounts of data, which may contain sensitive and personal information. How can we ensure that the data is protected and used ethically and responsibly?
  • Trust and transparency: Cognitive computing systems can provide insights and solutions that may not be easily understood or verified by humans. How can we ensure that the systems are reliable and accountable for their actions and outcomes?
  • Human-machine interaction: Cognitive computing systems can interact with humans in natural and intuitive ways, such as speech and gestures. How can we ensure that the systems are user-friendly and respectful of human preferences and emotions?

Some of the opportunities include:

  • Personalization and customization: Cognitive computing systems can understand and adapt to the needs and interests of individual users. How can we use this to provide personalized and customized experiences and services?
  • Innovation and creativity: Cognitive computing systems can generate novel and original ideas and solutions that may not be possible by humans alone. How can we use this to foster innovation and creativity in various fields and domains?
  • Collaboration and cooperation: Cognitive computing systems can work with humans and other systems in a synergistic and complementary way. How can we use this to enhance collaboration and cooperation among different stakeholders and entities?

AI and Cognitive Computing

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and cognitive computing are like digital superheroes in the world of technology. AI is the brainpower that lets computers do things smartly, almost like humans. It helps them learn from data, talk in human language, make decisions, and even see and understand pictures. It’s like teaching a computer to think!

Cognitive computing, a cool sidekick of AI, goes a step further. It makes computers act super smart, just like humans do. They can understand our feelings, adapt to different situations, and work with us like a great team player. Imagine having a computer buddy who understands you really well.

AI is the big world where computers become smart, and cognitive computing is like a special part of it where they become super smart and work closely with us. These tech wonders are changing the game in healthcare, finance, customer service, and more, making our lives easier and more exciting.

AI and Cognitive Computing
Source: TechTarget

How Does Cognitive Computing Work?

Cognitive computing works a bit like how we learn things. It’s all about training computers to think and make decisions like humans. Here’s how it works in simple terms:

  • Learning from Data: Computers gather lots of information (data) about a topic. They read, listen, and watch things, just like we do when we learn something new.
  • Finding Patterns: Next, they look for patterns in the data. For example, they might notice that when the weather is hot, people buy more ice cream.
  • Making Decisions: Once they find patterns, they use them to make decisions. In our ice cream example, the computer might suggest making more ice cream when it’s hot.
  • Getting Smarter: The more data they gather and learn from, the smarter they become. It’s like how we get better at things with practice.
  • Helping Humans: Finally, cognitive computers work with humans to solve problems and make life easier. They can answer questions, offer suggestions, and even understand our emotions.


In conclusion, the fusion of cognitive computing with neural networks, deep learning, and other AI technologies holds immense potential. This synergy promises a transformative shift in how computers comprehend events, anticipate consequences, and exhibit common sense. It stands as a pivotal moment in humanity’s interaction with technology.

The future painted by cognitive computing is one where technology becomes not just a tool, but a trusted and intuitive partner in enhancing our lives. 

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. What is cognitive computing in simple words?

A. Cognitive computing, simply put, is a field of AI that empowers computers to mimic human thought processes.

Q2. How does cognitive computing work?

A. It functions by combining data analysis, natural language processing, and machine learning to emulate human cognition.

Q3. What are some examples of cognitive computing?

A. Examples span industries like healthcare, where it can predict disease outbreaks by analyzing social media data, and personalized recommendation systems in e-commerce.

Q4. What is an example of cognitive computing in healthcare?

A. In healthcare, cognitive computing can analyze social media data to predict disease outbreaks, enabling timely preventive measures

Nitika Sharma 30 Jan, 2024

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